Rome Invades Britain

The sixth legion of the Roman army.
Fog over Dartmoor, U.K.
The Roman Empire at its greatest extent in 117 CE.

Britain had been inhabited by various peoples for thousands of years when Emperor Claudius of Rome decided to invade the island in 43 BCE. Even so, in 43 BCE, the Romans knew little about Britain other than that the great Roman emperor Julius Caesar had once attempted an invasion here and failed. Therefore, attacking their British neighbors was a risky endeavor, but also the perfect challenge for Claudius, who looked to strengthen his own position as leader with an impressive victory.

A scary place

Embarking on Claudius’ bold enterprise, the Roman soldiers, in spite of their body armor and powerful weapons, were on edge as they stepped ashore on British soil. The reason for this was that they had heard stories about gruesome rituals of human sacrifice and cannibalism being practiced here. Also alarming to the Romans, and equally based on loose claims, was the rumor that British druids could perform magic, a hearsay that made the soldiers prepare for the worst even in encounters with civilians.


Not being at ease surely impacted the Romans psychologically, but it is uncertain whether, in reality, they had any peculiar or morbid people to actually worry about. Even so, they would certainly have had dedicated enemies to worry about, since many Britons resisted the invading army. These Britons, with the advantage of home turf and by using guerilla-like tactics, also had some success in beating back the Romans, and a prince called Caratacus became a symbol of the resistance movement.

Determined to fight, Caratacus rallied some of Britain’s fiercest warriors to his cause and set up a base in the hill country of present-day Wales. Here he tried to hold out, notwithstanding the fact that several British tribes, by choosing to cooperate with the new power, weakened the resistance. Eventually though, Prince Caratacus’s hill country stronghold, just like much of the rest of Britain, would fall to the superior Roman forces. The prince himself, as a result, ended up captured, seized by men of a fellow British tribe loyal to Rome.